Saturday 24 February 2007

My Excellent California Training Adventure

Along the Pacific Coast Highway,
near La Jolla

In January I went to Southern California for ten days, where I attended Robert Panzera's San Diego Cycling Camp. It was good fun, although the initial superb weather became pretty frosty as Southern California hit record lows and most of the orange crop was lost. The irony was that DC was in the 70s at the same time.

Anyway, my JetBlue direct flight from Dulles to San Diego cost me $248 return, and an extra $50 each way for the bike and then I was picked up at the airport and taken to the hotel in Alpine, CA, which is about 25 miles east of San Diego and at an elevation of 1900 feet. I built up the bike and went for a short ride, past a very nice Indian casino, and got a feel for the landscape, which I guess would be called desert mountain. I had arrived a few days early to take advantage of the weekend but the camp itself began on the Monday and went to Friday.

On Sunday evening I met up with Robert and the rest of the group. There was an Old Hand from New York who had raced in Belgium in the 1960s, two triathlete types from Seattle and myself. Robert is a very experienced rider, doing about 50 (!) races a year. There is a very well-known coach in the San Diego area, Arnie Baker (a fellow Canadian, I might add), and Robert is one of his disciples. We discussed the kind of riding we were going to do over the coming days, and it seemed like a friendly little group.

the Viejas Casino near Alpine

The next morning after breakfast we rode out, joined by Jimena Florit, an Argentinian mountain biker who has recently ended her 12 year pro career as she retired from the LunaChix team, and during the week a few other local riders joined us too. The first day we did about 55 miles, with 4000 feet of climbing, and with a break at a store in between. The roads were very scenic and pretty empty for the most part. The following day we did a truly spectacular course, 62 miles and 6000 vertical feet, taking us through a big park along the very narrow Pine Valley Road, with inclines of 20 per cent. We reached an elevation of 6000 feet, passing the Pacific Coast Trail and a view of the Salton Sea, and enjoyed a 12 mile 6 per cent descent into Pine Valley.

On Wednesday we did a 76 mile route with 7300 vertical feet, including a superb road that was, for the most part, closed to traffic. It brought us back up to the summit of Mt. Laguna. The descent was a bit harder this second time as the temperature had really dropped. My downhill handling was really good as I was in a hurry to get down to a lower level as quickly as possible; I was hitting stretches at nearly 90 km/h on the way down, having gotten over my fear of cattle grids. The next day the forecast was so poor that instead of riding in the mountains we had a welcome respite, riding from La Jolla to Oceanview and back (54 miles) along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Eating at the surfer's restaurant in Oceanview

The last day we rode to Mt. Helix, which has a great corkscrew-like road that gives you an excellent view when you reach the top. We rode 55 miles, with a gain of 3900 feet for the day.

Camp over, I was planning to ride the next day but it was so cold that I just packed up the bike and went down to San Diego proper for the next two days for sightseeing and recovery.

The camp is an excellent value and Robert is extremely pleasant and very knowledgeable. We sat down one evening and went over my training plans and he sent me a suggested four month schedule to prepare for the Wintergreen Ascent. At his suggestion I also purchased Arnie Baker's e-book (for more information look at "High Intensity Training" at on high intensity training and the workouts are already exhausting me. I was very satisfied (except for the freakish weather!) and can recommend the camp for an early season start and great motivation. In January 2007 alone I have already ridden nearly 20 per cent of the mileage I did for all of 2006! And worked some hard hills.

There is another camp late in February at another location near San Diego. For more information you can go to:

And check out the photos! The one of Robert and me climbing Pine Creek road makes my legs hurt to look at.

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